North West Standing Conference on Mental Health

Our neighbours up in the North West have long been interested in and involved with Care Opinion. Most recently, the North West Mental Health Improvement Programme (MHIP) asked us how we could contribute to their 18month pioneering consultation with service users, carers and families across the region.

We were really keen – not least because it’s exciting to be involved with a venture that navigates somewhat unknown territory! There seemed to be some major overlap – we wanted to hear about peoples experiences of services in the North West and MHIP wanted the views of service users, carers and families to be integrated into key strategic decisions for the region.

So it was decided that we would set up Collective Voice as a ‘service’ on the Care Opinion site allowing people to write a story about their experiences (tagging it to the appropriate trust, just like any other story) and go on to offer suggestions and ideas to the consultation. After all, most people’s thoughts on what MHIP should focus on would be drawn from their (or a family members) experiences of receiving care and treatment in the North West.

Collective Voice, formerly known as the standing conference and renamed by the attendees, kicked off at the first event in Liverpool back in July and was blessed by an outstanding turn out. Conversations were lively and constructive as expected and most people took a lot from the day. At the second event in Manchester on 12th October, all the ideas from the first event were brought together and the day focused on the most popular area of discussion – stigma. The Care Opinion team spent the day sitting with lots of people, talking to them about how their story could really make a difference and we held a short workshop at the market-hall demonstrating the website and showing people how to share their stories.

So moving forward – 3 more events are planned, in Cumbria, Chester and Preston for the new year, see the UCLan website for details. It’s shaping up to be a real storm and it’s great to see the service user voice gaining power and influence by the day. We’re really pleased to be a part of it!

Collective voice is delivered in partnership with the University of Central Lancashire and Rethink.

Here is a video introduction: